The Dinner at the Ball by Adolph Menzel at the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin, Germany

In this episode, we’ll be taking a closer look at The Dinner at the Ball by Adolph Menzel at the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin, Germany. Welcome to Art, Culture & Books with me, Anthony King.

The Dinner at the Ball is an oil on canvas painting by Adolph Menzel from 1878. Adolph Friedrich Erdmann von Menzel, a German Realist artist, distinguished himself in drawings, etchings, and paintings. Regarded as one of the pre-eminent German painters of the 19th century, Menzel achieved unparalleled success in his era. He was Knighted in 1898, he adopted the name Adolph von Menzel. He was born on December 8th, 1815, in Breslau, he died February 9th, 1905, in Berlin, Prussia, Germany. Sadly, Menzel’s last will and testament revealed his lifelong detachment, both romantically and socially, citing a lack of self-made connections with the outside world.

Menzel wrote:

“Not only have I remained unmarried, throughout my life I have also renounced all relations with the other sex….In short, there is a lack of any kind of self-made bond between me and the outside world.”

Throughout the 1860s, Menzel frequented gatherings at the Berlin City Palace, documenting his impressions in paintings, with The Dinner at the Ball being particularly intricate. The composition, portraying a high viewpoint of a pause in the dancing, captures the opulence. We see Menzel’s skill as he employs vibrant colour and successfully captures the lively chatter, and a general sense of animation. The crowd lacks a clear focal point, yet the movement toward the viewer unifies the composition. The play of lights in mirrors and chandeliers divides and layers the room, showcasing Menzel’s increasing interest in portraying large crowds. During my later research I found that contrary to the apparent meticulousness, Menzel’s portrayal is illusory, as the rooms and individuals in the crowd lack historical accuracy.

What an opulent painting!

By Anthony King (c)